Director (and former cinematographer) Barry Sonnenfeld's hit adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel, "Get Shorty" stars John Travolta as Chili Palmer, a Miami loanshark who travels out to Los Angeles to collect a debt from famed B-movie director Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman). However, once movie fan Chili gets out to Hollywood, he decides he likes the business better than the business he's currently in.
Chili has a movie idea he wants to pitch, and both Harry and his girlfriend, B-movie star Karen Flores (Rene Russo) want in. Unfortunately, so do a lot of other people - including a few gangsters and a famous star (Danny Devito). Meanwhile, Chili's nemesis - gangster Ray "Bones" Barboni (Dennis Farina) is also headed out to Los Angeles to see what Chili's up to. Meanwhile, Chili's falling for Karen and a lot of people are starting to snoop around a bag of hot cash in a locker at the airport.
When I first saw "Get Shorty" in 1995, I didn't care for it. I thought the movie lacked a bit of a needed edge, and came off as a little smug. Over the years, I've warmed up to it, largely thanks to the performances. Travolta, fresh off of "Pulp Fiction", was once again at the top of his game as Chili Palmer, giving a cool, relaxed performance that's highly entertaining. Hackman is wonderful as the frazzled producer, Russo is great as his dame and Dennis Farina is funny as the irritable criminal after Chili.
Despite having such a wide variety of characters and subplots, Scott Frank's screenplay manages to keep everything organized, while also compressing the novel well. The picture looks great, too - production design is wonderful and just a bit funky, while Don Peterman's cinematography is glossy and gorgeous. The picture could use a little bit of editing here-and-there to pick up the pace, but overall, "Get Shorty" remains a fun and clever dig at Hollywood.
VIDEO: "Get Shorty" is presented here again in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is an enjoyable transfer - it's not flawless and it appears (if memory serves me) to be the same presentation as the original release. However, the picture remains sharp and bright, with good detail and definition that remains nice and consistent, if not remarkable.
The picture suffers from only a few tiny faults. A little bit of pixelation is briefly visible once or twice, and some minor instances of edge enhancement are rarely visible. The print seemed to be in excellent condition, with only some minor grain and a slight hint or two of dirt. The film's warm color palette was well-rendered here, with nicely saturated colors and no smearing.
SOUND: "Get Shorty" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is an almost entirely front-heavy presentation. There's hardly any instances of surround use throughout the picture, aside from the occasional light effects and ambience. Audio quality is also just fine - everything seems clear, but lacks fullness and kick.
EXTRAS: Director Barry Sonnenfeld offers an audio commentary, which I believe is the same commentary from the laserdisc edition of the film. Sonnenfeld's rather nasal voice and deadpan delivery is always amusing (and slightly Woody Allen-ish), and this commentary is fairly informative. The director offers a lot of entertaining behind-the-scenes stories regarding the production, and chats about casting, adapting the book, locations and production issues. It's an entertaining and occasionally pretty funny track.
Jumping to the second disc, we find another round of supplements. "Look at Me" is a featurette regarding the characters, casting and dialogue in the film, as well as the work of author Elmore Leonard and Scott Frank's duties adapting the novel. The piece offers some interview footage with author Elmore Leonard, screenwriter Scott Frank, actor John Travolta, actor Gene Hackman, actor Danny Devito and director Barry Sonnenfeld. There's also some production tidbits offered and behind-the-scenes footage. The discussion of characters in the film continues in the featurette, "Wiseguys and Dolls". A fair amount of film footage pads out the running time of both pieces.
Next is a featurette discussing a deleted scene ("The Graveyard Scene"), which offers a guest appearance by Ben Stiller, playing the director of Harry Zimm's new movie. Next, we get to see the actual scene. "Going Again" looks at the scene where the Travolta and Russo characters come to the Devito character's house to discuss the screenplay. Sonnenfeld chats about the process behind directing and some of the details of the scene, then we see a series of Devito outtakes/improvs.
"Get Shorty Party Reel" is a series of goofs, silliness and other assorted production happenings set to music. There's really nothing much here, as there's no production audio. Next is a quick sneak peek at "Be Cool", the upcoming sequel to "Get Shorty", starring Travolta, Uma Thurman and others. In the sequel, Chili decides to get into the music business, which he finds out is even a little tougher. Sonnenfeld isn't directing - F. Gary Grey ("Italian Job") has stepped in. Finally, "Page-to-Screen" is a Bravo documentary hosted by Peter Gallager about the film's screenplay adaptation.
Rounding out the set are the film's trailer, a photo gallery and promos for other MGM releases. Inside the case is a free movie ticket for "Be Cool", which hits theaters in March 2004. I also must make note of the interior fold-out case, which is cleverly designed.
Final Thoughts: "Get Shorty" remains a fun, inspired comedy, with great performances and smart dialogue. The film could stand a little trimming, but it's still entertaining. MGM's DVD edition provides the same audio/video quality, but a lot of new supplements and a movie ticket to "Be Cool". Overall, a worthwhile Special Edition for fans. Recommended.